Six US states that refuse to recognize the cold, hard truth of modernity

Establishment ChristiansThere is a delicious nugget of truth that seems, as of yet, to be fairly unknown. The reality of things is that many who hold office in the establishment hold no sincere religious belief. Theocrats on the right tend to gloss over this fact. It is also likely that this has been true for some time. Despite this, only in the last few decades has it become acceptable to declare lack of belief.

Six U.S. state constitutions harbor measures that the Supreme Court would rule unconstitutional on the basis of precedent. These measures target individuals who, for whatever reason, do not affirm the existence of a “Supreme being,” “Almighty God,” etc. They are essentially meaningless, but they are extremely useful as illustrative cultural examples.

Historically, discrimination against atheists and agnostics (at least against those who were openly so) has been portrayed as beneficial to society, seeing as these “radical” belief systems, from the perspective of the theist, lead to the direct moral and behavioral degeneration of society so as to induce decadence and incapacity for efficient thought.

Since things have changed a little bit over the last century, this belief is less ubiquitous yet still pervasive. Progressives must seek to affirm the place of all belief systems within the discourse.

In essence this means that those interested in real change must not shun ideas. This is also intimately related to individual freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

I. The Laws

1) Article 1 Section 37 of the Maryland state constitution: “That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this state, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God.”

2) Article 1 Section 18 of the Mississippi state constitution (all kinds of interesting here): “No religious test as a qualification for office shall be required; and no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect or mode of worship; but the free enjoyment of all religious sentiments and the different modes of worship shall be held sacred. The rights hereby secured shall not be construed to justify acts of licentiousness injurious to morals or dangerous to the peace and safety of the state, or to exclude the Holy Bible from use in any public school of this state.”

3) Article 1 Section 4 of the Texas state constitution (Supreme Being): “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any oce, or public trust, in this State; nor shall anyone be excluded from holding oce on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”

4) Article 1 Section 4 of the Pennsylvania state constitution (“disqualified”): “No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.”

5) Article 17 Section 4 of the South Carolina state constitution:  “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.”

6) Article 6 Section 8 of the North Carolina state constitution: “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God […]”

II. The Dirty Little Secret

To a great extent, those in power are subject, in their decision making, to the forces of change that work through their professional environments. In other words, they must be willing to adapt to environmental demands.

Establishment ChristiansWe must understand the establishment Christians of today in terms of genealogy. When seen through the lens of several generations, the Christians of today are often significantly different than their parents.

Over time, it has become increasingly difficult for hard-line ideologues to effectively manage the changing capitalist system. This is a system that works across all social boundaries.

Put simply, one can make all manner of pious promises before taking office. The reality of one’s decision-making process afterward may be several orders of magnitude more complex.

It is likely that a large portion of powerful Christians (Republicans and Democrats) harbor no belief in deity. It is also equally likely that there are just as many agnostics or “unsures” in this group. The individual affirmation of belief has served as a stepping stone toward legitimacy under the scrutiny of the public eye.

This phenomenon is quite evident in the current plight of the American Republican Party. Republicans, like Mitt Romney,  who is, in the greater scope of things, a right-leaning, fiscally-minded political moderate (almost in the same way that Barack Obama is basically a left-leaning political moderate).

Republicans like him are continually at the mercy of their rural, ultra-conservative, and overwhelmingly Christian electorate. In practice, this translates into a long series of fervent campaign promises. Most turn out to be either impossible to carry out or complete embarrassments when debate time comes.

The establishment will exist as a structure, independently of the religious or secular orientations of its officers. To that end, it is prudent to recognize the changing social landscape of today. ‘

At the personal level, atheism and agnosticism have both existed for thousands of years. Only since the rise of capitalism did the expression of this belief increasingly become accepted within the public discourse.

It is important to consider the former Soviet Union, which was officially atheist, as an example. There, it could be argued, the group systematically shunned theism. In this case, theism was far less socially acceptable than in capitalist countries. In the case of Russia proper, it became borderline unacceptable in practice to express oneself as, for example, an Orthodox Christian.

It is also important to note that by no means did the Soviets stamp out the Orthodox Church. The new system assumed the socio-political power that the church previously held.

The truth of the matter is, however, that many Soviets never gave up their religious traditions. Today, Russia is an intensely socially conservative country. Many of these values came out of the culture of the Russian Empire. This culture is inextricably intertwined with the Orthodox Church.

This case provides a near mirror image of the current atheist position in a Judaeo-Christian dominated system. The atheist position goes un-heard in this case. A common reaction from American conservatives follows, “I don’t think I could sleep at night knowing there was an atheist doing the same in the White House.”

Progressives must strive to affirm freedom of individual belief. Included in this category are all belief systems. The simple truth of the matter is that those on the far right wing likely fear the displacement of their ideology. As more secular-minded officials take their place, bi partisanship on many issues may be recognizable.

Associated Court Cases:

Everson v. Board of Education

Torcaso v. Watkins

Silverman v. Campbell



  1. Actually, the dirty little secret that Progressives don’t want known is that current “legal precedent” of so-called “separation of church and State” is a bogus doctrine not supported by the Constitution. Indeed, the word “church” does not appear in that document, and neither does the word “separation.” Article 6 Clause 3 says (in pertinent part) “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” and the First Amendment says (in pertinent part) “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …” Thus attempts by Marxists who think they are merely Socialists and who hide behind the pseudonym of “Progressive” (and anyone else) are violating the Constitution when they prohibit the free exercise of religion in the public schools by administrators, teachers, and/or students — and that includes the religion of atheism — so long as it does not disrupt the functions of the institution. Sean, you should note that for many years after our nation was founded and the capital buildings were constructed, those buildings were used every Sunday for religious services. You should also note that the great majority of the founders of our nation were also ministers, deacons, and other luminaries of one denomination or another. And they made it clear in their writings that morality (meaning honesty, integrity, etc.) was essential to liberty; our Constitution is wholly inadequate to the governance of any other. The lack of these qualities in our government at all levels today is the reason why we are turning into a police state.

    The point of Article 6 and the First Amendment passages on religion was to simply recognize the right of every individual to practice, or not practice, whatever religion or anti-religion they wished, so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others to do likewise. And those State Constitution passages you quote are not unconstitutional; the prohibition against religious tests is for offices and public trusts under the United States: States are sovereign in their own right, and not under the United States, but rather, enjoy dual sovereignty with the United States under Federalism (so long as they do not exercise Powers prohibited to them by the Constitution).

      • @doncline: The revisionist-to-the-point-of-fictional character of your take on early American history relative to the relationship between religion and the state and relative to your laughable attempt to establish “dual sovereignty” between the federal government and state governments (by your own definition, states are penultimate in power and, thus, “under” the federal government per the primacy of the founding document of the union over any state constitution) left me wondering whether or not to reply at all. But, I do so not to persuade you—my guess is that you are not available to such—of anything as much as to sharpen my own articulation of a pertinent point per your notation.

        Few things have so historically diminished the prophetic power of the Church—or, if you like, the collective or community power of Christians—as its propensity to prostitute itself to the state in return for the illusion of power and influence. Albert Schweitzer, no slouch as either a biblical scholar or biblical theologian (though his Search for the Historical Jesus somewhat marked the end of an era in, well, the “search for the historical Jesus”), once wrote that, when the Church accepted the accommodation offered by Constantine, it forever lost “its prophetic voice in the interest of maintaining its illusory status.”

        In other words, I am unclear as to why you would think it a good thing for there not to be a “wall of separation between church and state.” Again, given the propensity of the Church to, uh, behave badly in return for a few shekels (tax-exempt status) and the empty promises of “future considerations,” that “wall of separation” serves less to protect the state from the clutches of the Church as to protect the Church from the consequences of its own need for validation from a higher power—and I’m not talking about the Almighty as being that “higher power.”

        The Church has influenced the halls of American power far less than those halls have influenced it. Nothing illustrates that better than the reductionist nature of contemporary Christian priorities as they presently exist on the Right side of the Christian Divide. Charged to preach a message of cosmological redemption, “evangelicals” have settled for proclaiming that the Keystone Pipeline project has the imprimatur of Yahweh His Own Self and that Lexington County, S.C. has crossed over to the infidel side of the Congaree by ridding itself of the ridiculous Blue Laws that made Sunday afternoons a living hell when I was a boy back in the day. I mean, seriously, the message of cosmic redemption has been reduced to an effort to build an unneeded oil pipeline and prevent people from renting movies on Sunday afternoon?

        Alrighty, then! Next question?

        • This is the third time I have responded to this post by Rusty Inman, but when my answer gets more than a paragraph long, it starts underlapping the advertisement at the bottom of the page and the submit button becomes unavailable. Someone needs to examine their software and correct this problem.
          Rusty: Short answer: “Dual Sovereignty” is what we have, and you need to look up the word “federalism.” I didn’t attempt to establish it, the founders did. Read the 10th Amendment, then read Article VI Clause 2 (Supremacy Clause) and note the words “…in purusance thereof…”
          Part I, since if I continue, I won’t be able to post. Part II is coming.

        • Part II: (Part I is below.) Whatever you regard “The Church” to be, whichever church you are referencing, no more prostitutes itself to the State than the general population does — vis a vis, welfare, social security, federal bribery of the States, etc. Furthermore, the history of organized religion is, I will grant you, a history of tyranny and oppression — e.g., Inquisition, etc. But the church nonetheless is the source of principles of integrity, honesty, fairness, compassion etc. otherwise nonexistent in the natural un-moralized human psyche, and what little there may be is easily overcome by baser human instincts. The reason I see no value to a wall between church and State is the fact that a State not based on moral values is a State not capable of protecting the rights of the individual our nation was founded to preserve and protect.

        • And my last segment, due to the encroaching advertisement below, is to point out the words of John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Those words are true, because our Constitution is designed for a free people, and that requires understanding that having freedom requires protecting the freedom of others, event those who disagree with you — something the Progressives totally reject.

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